Notable Player: Geno Smith threw for almost 4,400 yards and 31 touchdown passes last year in Holgorsen’s system. He had 6 touchdowns in the destruction of Clemson in the bowl game. With Robert Griffin and Brandon Weeden gone, he comes into the Big XII with some people talking about him as the best quarterback in the league. (Landry Jones and Smith would appear to be the favorites entering the year to claim honors). If West Virginia is going to make a major impact in year one and return to a BCS bowl, Smith will have to live up to all that and more.
Four-Year Trend: 2008 (9-4), 2009 (9-4), 2010 (9-4), 2011 (10-3)
Top Newcomers: Ford Childress (QB), Sam Lebbie (LB), Noble Nwachukwu (DE)
Circle This Game: West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Nov. 10). Dana Holgorsen returns to Stillwater, where he served as offensive coordinator in 2010 and helped turn Oklahoma State into an elite offense.
Why We Like Them: The Mountaineers’ explosive offense seems perfectly capable of blending in the Big XII quickly. Dana Holgorsen is one of the best offensive minds in the game, and this team enters his second season in Morgantown and makes a big jump with Geno Smith at quarterback along with a top notch receiving group.
Best-Case Scenario: The defense lost most of its best players, but when you give up over 26 points a game, change can be good. The offense emerges as one of the best in the country, the defense improves dramatically, and the Mountaineers compete for the Big XII title right away.
Worst-Case Scenario: The 2011 defense was bad even by recent Big XII standards, and that does not improve. West Virginia loses shootouts in unfamiliar places, and flounders to a 7-5 record with the upgrade in competition.
Projected Bowl: Cotton Bowl
[photo via US Presswire]